Whilst modern reusable cloth nappies (MCN) do not breakdown, much like most plastics, using them reduces how many disposables in landfill and the space they take up.
Contrary to popular belief New Zealand's landfills are covered. That means, whatever goes into them doesn't get a chance to fully breakdown (like they would with bacteria in open air) before they are sealed up and become anaerobic - without oxygen.
Also, because of the number of chemicals, batteries, phones, oils, non soil/waterway friendly items we dispose of, many landfills have a plastic layer between the waste and the dirt where the hole has been dug. This layer is to catch and channel leachate (but it appears not all have this either...). Leachate is a fancy word for toxic runoff created as everything mixes in landfill.
So whilst reusables aren't perfect, they're a huge step in the right direction for reducing waste. Plus I haven't even begun to do the maths on the weight/volume of this many disposables!!
These figures are based on:
- the total number of nappies used over a 3year period (as per our cost of nappies chart)
- the fact most reusable cloth nappies will work for two children i.e. 6 years of use before needing to be land filled
- if you have more than two children or multiples your number of reusable cloth nappies would increase, as would the equivalent number of disposables
- 90% plastic for modern cloth nappies is an estimate as polyester (most commonly polyethylene terephthalate [PET]), PUL (polyurethane), suede cloth, athletic wicking jersey, snaps are all synthetic plastic products
- disposables containing less plastics (some minimal) as they can use paper pulp, or corn based products instead - these probably wouldn't wash too well at 60deg